Education & Family

Boarding schools issue Ebola advice

Coloured transmission electron micro graph of a single Ebola virus, the cause of Ebola fever Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Boarding school medical staff are expected to keep up-to-date with the latest government guidance

The Boarding Schools Association has issued guidance on Ebola after some heads asked how to deal with students returning from affected countries.

Many schools with international students say they will monitor pupils' travel over half-term.

"With a rich mix of overseas students you do get concerns being raised," Robin Fletcher, BSA national director, told the Times Educational Supplement.

Half-term starts for some boarding schools this weekend.

Worried parents

Schools are concerned that boarders from affected countries may return home, says the TES.

Some head teachers have suggested some pupils may come into contact with family or friends who have been to affected areas.

The BSA's guidance to its 500 members suggests schools with students from a range of countries may face parents worried about their children mixing with pupils from countries affected by Ebola.

"Some pupils may also be displaying their own 'fear-of-contagion' behaviour having reached their own conclusions, informed or otherwise, about whether they are at risk," says the advice.

"We recommend that staff, pupils and parents are told that any fears they may have within a school are low-risk and this reassurance should come, ideally, from a senior staff member with responsibility for pastoral care."

The guidance says schools with students from seriously affected countries, or neighbouring countries, planning to travel home at half-term should follow the latest government advice.

"This could, potentially, mean that they are advised not to travel home (in which case alternative supervision arrangements will need to be made for them) or they may face screening or other restrictions when returning to the UK.

"In issuing any specific advice for students, it is crucial this is done in full accordance with guidance from your school nurse and GP, and that any medical steps they recommend are closely followed."

Elaine Purves, head teacher of Rossall School in Lancashire which has boarders from 50 countries, told the TES she had been watching the situation closely for some time.

"We have been monitoring it all through the summer.

'Gearing up'

"We are conscious that anybody could have been in Africa over the holidays and we are gearing up now to do it again as everyone is going off site."

Jo Heywood, headmistress of Heathfield School in Berkshire which has published guidance on its website, said the measures were "to prevent scaremongering".

Heathfield's guidance says Public Health England has advised "that any persons arriving back in the UK having travelled from any of the affected countries and who are free of symptoms are not infectious and there should be no restrictions on their school attendance or normal activities."

However, the school says it can take up to three weeks for symptoms to appear so its medical staff will monitor pupils who have travelled to "at-risk countries".

"Should a pupil, who is returning from one of the affected countries, present to the medical centre with a fever then the pupil will be isolated and medical advice obtained from the school medical officer or her colleagues."

Mr Fletcher said: "What we are saying is that it is a managed situation.

"And every school has a nurse who can keep up-to-date with the latest official advice."

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